Sam Keene Named 2019 C.V. Starr Professor

POSTED ON: April 3, 2019

Sam Keene with some results of the 2018 Data Science for Social Good class. Photo by Photo by Marget Long/The Cooper Union

Sam Keene with some results of the 2018 Data Science for Social Good class. Photo by Photo by Marget Long/The Cooper Union

Sam Keene, associate professor of electrical engineering, has been named the 2019 C. V. Starr Distinguished Professor of Engineering. Awarded by the deans of the Albert Nerken School of Engineering, the named professorship goes to mid-career, tenured, associate or full professor faculty members with documented research accomplishments including peer reviewed journal and conference papers and presentations as well as evidence of scholarly collaborations with other institutions and/or corporations. The distinction lasts for two years and comes with a $20,000 annual stipend for research activities such as travel, research assistants, equipment, and supplies.

Keene, whose work was the subject of a September, 2018 article in At Cooper, has been exploring avenues of research that conflate the disciplines of engineering, art, and architecture since 2016. That first independent study project smartly focused on the one thing that unites all college students everywhere: beer. The work focused not only on the engineering of the fermentation process, but also the history of brewing and the graphic design of what culminated in an exhibition / tasting. 

“Sam Keene was selected as the C.V. Starr Distinguished Professor of Engineering for his demonstrated excellence in each of the areas of evaluation for the award,” Barry Shoop, dean of the school of engineering, says. “Especially noteworthy was his interdisciplinary teaching of two different courses across the three degree-granting schools at Cooper Union: Generative Machine Learning for Architecture and Data Science Projects for Social Good. Generative Machine Learning for Architecture is a cross-disciplinary course, co-taught with collaborative pedagogy by Sam and Ben Aranda [assistant professor] from the School of Architecture, where the computational ability of machine learning are focused on a fundamental pillar of architectural education: learning by drawing. Students create Machine Learning algorithms that draw architecture in a creative way.”

Map from the 2018 Data Science for Social GoodIn the Data Science for Social Good course, one project, in collaboration with City Harvest, students from all three schools used machine learning and data visualization techniques to help better understand food insecurity in New York City. One deliverable was a map that illustrating connected networks of food facilities, showing City Harvest what regions of New York City have a strong network of support, and which ones are lacking.

“I will be using the C. V. Starr funds primarily to hire undergraduate research assistants and purchase additional hardware to enhance the research capabilities of my lab in the areas of machine learning and signal processing,” Keene says. “Much of this hardware will support the interdisciplinary coursework I have been developing in machine learning as it applies to art, architecture and applications to social good. I hope the additional resources will enable greater collaboration opportunities with the other schools, as well as enhance our ability to work with other non-profits in the greater NYC area.”

The Starr Foundation was established in 1955 by Cornelius Vander Starr, the founder of C.V. Starr & Co., Starr International Co., and other companies. Under Mr. Starr’s successor, Maurice R. Greenberg, the Foundation makes grants in education, medicine and health care, public policy, human needs, culture and the environment.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.